Flint, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico: America’s “Short Term Memory” Needs to Be Addressed

In the current age of technology, there is no question that people’s attention span has shortened greatly. We get annoyed when videos buffer, when networks lag and content does not load immediately. If a topic is not trending on Twitter, then it doesn’t exist. Events and feuds, celebrities and politics; it’s all just noise that briefly catches our attention, but never long enough to actually interest us.

Unfortunately, the same attitude is seen towards tragedies and disasters in the United States. Take the massacre that occurred in Las Vegas just this past September, in which 58 people died and over 500 were injured. Remember the chaos that the entire country erupted in? It was labeled as the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Stories of men and women who valiantly took a bullet for their loved ones circulated endlessly. Americans were mourning, outraged, and furiously seeking justice. #PrayforLasVegas was tweeted hundreds of thousands of times. With Las Vegas, finally, the limit was reached. There was Sandy Hook and Orlando, San Bernardino and Charleston, but Las Vegas was the tipping point. People talked about starting petitions, actively protesting for stricter gun control legislation. Vigils were held, and with each tear shed, a promise that this time, change will come.

Only one month later, and the country is silent.

Bump stocks, a type of gun accessory that allowed the terrorist behind the Las Vegas shooting to fire shots nearly at the rate of a machine gun, are still legal. The call for gun control hasn’t progressed anywhere. Victims are just starting to rehabilitate and this entire country acts as if the deadliest mass shooting in American history, as they were so quick to label it as, didn’t occur just thirty days ago.

What about Flint, Michigan?

The city’s consequential decision to switch their water source to contaminated Flint River caused an uproar in 2014. Lead-poisoned water caused the residents of Flint to suffer from rashes, hair loss and an increased risk for long-term diseases. Americans were shocked. Clean water is a basic right, and these residents were obviously being denied it. A little girl named Amariyanna Copeny (better known as Little Miss Flint) went viral for writing a letter when she was eight years old to former President Obama that convinced him to visit in May 2016.

Considering that this occurred in the United States, it is safe to say that many people believed that the awful disaster would have been solved in a matter of weeks. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen in the US; these are the type of stories you hear in third world countries. But, over three years later, safe, potable water is still not restored in Flint. Three years. Yet, is this story seen on the nightly news?

In September 2017, Puerto Rico was brutally hit by Maria, a category 5 Hurricane that devastated the entire country and left them without electricity, access to clean water or hospitals. Despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a United States territory, populated by United States citizens, the US government was slow to respond. Today, more than a month after the hurricane, 25% of Puerto Ricans still don’t have clean water, 80% of civilians still don’t have electricity, and most likely will not until December. Are updates on this catastrophe talked about daily?

It is clear that there is a huge problem with the American tendency to react and forget. Initial outrage and shock is good, as it shows that we are still human and feel for others. But if these emotions are not acted upon, they prove to be useless. By simply keeping current events in constant circulation, and making sure that existing problems aren’t ignored and lose their significance, the power to create change and demand efficient results that have the potential to save people’s lives, will only grow.

Picture Credit: US Department of Defense

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